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Ayoub El-Khazzani attack on Paris train was 'well prepared'

By
Andrew V. Pestano
Ayoub El-Khazzani (R), 26, from Morocco, exited a bathroom inside of a train in France with an AK-47 before he was tackled and detained by a group of men on Friday. Photo courtesy of Ayoub El-Khazzani/Facebook
Ayoub El-Khazzani (R), 26, from Morocco, exited a bathroom inside of a train in France with an AK-47 before he was tackled and detained by a group of men on Friday. Photo courtesy of Ayoub El-Khazzani/Facebook

PARIS, Aug. 25 (UPI) -- A spotlight is being cast on Ayoub El-Khazzani, the 25-year-old Moroccan who wielded an AK-47 on a French train before he was subdued by three Americans and a Briton, as a formal terrorism investigation has opened.

El-Khazzani was carrying 270 bullets and a bottle of gasoline, according to French prosecutor Francois Molins. His phone also revealed that he watched a militant Islamist video shortly before launching the attack attempt.

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"Ayoub El-Khazzani had watched YouTube audio files whilst already on the Thalys train in which an individual called on the faithful to fight and take up arms in the name of the Prophet [Muhammad]," Molins told a news conference Tuesday, adding that a formal terrorism investigation has been opened and that other European authorities have delivered information on El-Khazzani's travel patterns and links to radical Islam.

Judges must decide on Tuesday if El-Khazzani will be charged with attempting a terror attack, according to NBC News. Paris prosecutors are expected to open a judicial investigation or possibly request an extension to his police custody, as the 96-hour limit draws early Tuesday.

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Born in Tetouan, Morocco, reports conclude that El-Khazzani moved to Spain in 2007 and then moved to Belgium in 2015. In February 2014, Spanish authorities warned France that El-Khazzani was an Islamist extremist who could travel to France.

El-Khazzani was then placed on a list "so that we could locate him if he ever came on to French soil," French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

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El-Khazzani denies reports that he traveled to Turkey and Syria, which could suggest links to organized militant Islamist groups. He admits to traveling to Spain, Andorra, Belgium, Austria, Germany and France in the last six months.

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The four men who helped prevent the potential gunman attack were awarded the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest honor, on Monday.

El-Khazzani exited a bathroom on a French train on Friday holding an automatic rifle before he was tackled and detained by Americans Spencer Stone, 23, Alek Skarlatos, 22, Anthony Sadler, 23, and British citizen Chris Norman, 62, who were all honored by French President Francois Hollande.

Mark Moogalian, 51, from Midlothian, Virginia, was shot while attempting to assist in stopping El-Khazzani. Moogalian is being treated at Lille Central Hospital.

El-Khazzani told police that his motive was to rob the passengers, only planning to shoot out a window of the train, but prosecutor Molins said El-Khazzani's explanation became less clear during interrogation before he stopped answering questions altogether.

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